By Daniel Hunter

UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are missing out on government money, according to business software and services provider Sage.

Research has shown that 90% of the UK’s small business owners are entirely unaware of the G-Cloud, the government's digital marketplace for public contracts, and missing out on a potential revenue stream as a result.

Launched in 2012, the government’s Digital Marketplace (G-Cloud) is intended to be a one-stop shop for the public sector to buy digital services. G-Cloud provides a way for small businesses to promote themselves to public sector bodies, local authorities and even central government departments, allowing them to list their services on a cloud-based catalogue

With the UK government spending £11 billion per year on IT services, G-Cloud presents a huge opportunity for small businesses. This total expenditure is expected to surge by a further £1.5 billion in 2015 and £3 billion in 2016, meaning the business opportunities will continue to increase sharply.

“Eighty seven per cent of suppliers currently listed on G-Cloud are SMEs, but many UK small business owners still aren’t aware of the initiative,” said Brendan Flattery President, Europe, Sage Group plc.

“The Digital Marketplace is a powerful tool, helping these firms to sell their services to public sector organisations by simplifying the tender process. Small business owners need to re-examine whether they are able to sell their consultancy or services via G-Cloud, as they could tap into rich, unexplored revenue opportunities.”

“To date, 41% of suppliers with sales activity on G-Cloud are Sage customers and our research shows that the biggest opportunity for suppliers is in the education sector, as this is where the largest number of contracts are being signed.”

Traditionally, the tender process for public sector contracts has been time-consuming and complicated, meaning that smaller firms have often been unable to compete, as they haven’t been able to commit the resources required. The Digital Marketplace - which saw significant changes in the last month - simplifies this process, allowing smaller businesses to compete more effectively with larger companies, opening them up to the possibility of lucrative public sector contracts.

To help SMEs take advantage of these opportunities, Sage has identified five top tips for success in the Digital Marketplace:

- Know the competition: take time to see what other businesses are promoting and look to see how your competitors are using the site.

- Know your audience: Make sure you know and appreciate the main challenges faced by public sector teams. Once you know these, you can adapt your listing so it’s clear how you can address the challenges they face.

- Explain the benefits: Each listing on the G-Cloud includes up to 10 benefits. Make sure you include tangible, measurable benefits wherever possible, as this is a key selling area. Think about typical time saved, or how it could reduce costs.

- Keep it simple: Your audience don’t know your services as well as you do. Make sure you explain everything simply and concisely. Many of the people looking for services won’t have a technical background, but you can include any necessary technical information in supporting documentation.

- Think about titles and descriptions: You’ll need to include a title and description for each of the services you list. These will affect whether people will click through, so make them meaningful, with the keywords your audience might search for.